You maintain a WordPress website with a little bit of effort, often. Good website maintenance will ensure that your website remains healthy, functioning and safe. The earlier you find any issues, the cheaper and easier it is to correct them.
Do you put your website maintenance on the long finger? You can’t create a website and just leave it sitting for weeks, months, years on end! Depending on your level of IT competence, maintaining a website can seem daunting and time consuming but it doesn’t have to be that way. We offer maintenance plans and will do this work for you if don’t have time or feel like its out of your wheelhouse. There are definite risks to carrying out certain maintenance tasks yourself if you don’t have experience in troubleshooting when it goes wrong, some updates can even take your website down. Its at this point that you might decide its easier to burn the laptop than to try and sort out the mess that’s been created!
That being said, once you know what you are doing, what you should be doing and how often you should be doing it, then you are good to go. We have compiled this list of tasks for any website DIY’ers out there who need a reminder of what they need to do. Maintenance tasks can be broken down into those that are required to be carried out weekly, monthly or yearly. You should build this time into your schedule to ensure you are staying on top of things.
Weekly Maintenance Tasks
1. Visit your website
This might sound odd but some people never visit their own site as a customer. You probably spend a lot of your “website time” in the WordPress dashboard. Once a week just open up your website – maybe in an incognito window – and check that everything looks how it should and works how it should. You’re looking for any potential issues with forms, links or pages.
2. Moderate Comments
If you allow comments on your website, jump in and check on those comments that need approval. Delete any spam comments. If you use a spam plugin like Akismet – check that it hasn’t flagged a real comment as spam, if it has you can release it.
3. Take Website Backups
Backing up your website ensures you have a clean copy of your site if anything really bad happens or you totally screw up some changes, you can quickly restore a backup. Back up frequency depends on how often you make changes to your website. The more major the changes you make and the more often you make these changes will determine how often you should run a backup. Weekly is probably the minimum you should do. Some hosts will carry out back ups for you so you should contact them in the first instance to check this but even if they do its always worth having your own back up stored somewhere off-site, cloud backups are good for this.
4. Install Updates
There are different parts of WordPress that need to be updated regularly to make sure your website is secure and using the most up to date functionality. These include WordPress itself, plugins and themes. Check weekly for updates to anything you run on your site. Updating can cause big issues so its always worth running updates in staging environments first or to put your website in maintenance mode while you run the updates. The ins and outs of updating is outside the scope of this post but id suggest always taking a backup before running updates!
5. Test contact forms and interactive features
If you have contact forms or features like checkouts and carts, test them weekly to make sure they are working. Yes things like this can just stop working, possibly due to an update! You may not realise these things don’t work unless a customer contacts you or you notice its been a while since you made a sale only to find out the checkout stopped working. If there are critical forms on your site its worth having some automated monitoring in place that will test the functionality and alert you if it stops working
6. Check Google Console Reports
Your site should be linked to Google Console and you should check the reports weekly. Google can detect any issues with mobile responsiveness or SEO on your site and will alert you. It will also allow you to request a validation of a fix when you fix something it has flagged. Its important that you check the console regularly to stay on top of your websites health
Monthly Website Maintenance
1. Run Performance Tests
When you first released your website it would have been optimised for performance. Its worth checking your performance using site speed tests on a monthly basis. Loading speed is a ranking factor for SEO and staying on top of any performance issues is important.
2. Analyse Your Site’s Traffic
Analysis of traffic is what will guide you when it comes to adding content to your site or maybe changing something that isn’t working as you thought it would. What do users spend most time doing on your site? Do they read and stay on your blog or do they spend time searching through your products? You need this information so that you can give the users more of what they want. Using a tool like Google Analytics will help you understand what is happening on your site.
3. Run a Security Scan
Badly configured WordPress are an attractive incentive to hackers. Install a security plugin and run a scan, at least monthly to ensure you aren’t leaving yourself open to attack. Most plugins will have automated scans that you can run
4. Optimize Your Site’s Database
WordPress stores everything about your site in a database. It can quickly get loaded up with clutter like blog post revisions and changes to settings. There are plugins available like WPRocket that will help you clear out the clutter from your database and keep it running in tip top shape.
5. Check for Broken Links or 404 Errors
While broken links and 404 errors result in the same bad experience for a user, they are slightly different things. A broken link is a link on a page that you either provided incorrectly or it used to be right but you changed the destination i.e. you deleted the page it linked to or you changed the url. A broken link will end up displaying a 404 error. A 404 error can be one of 2 things. As just mentioned broken links lead to 404 errors. The second is a link that the user tried to get to that doesn’t exist – they may have manually entered a URL incorrectly. Either way 404’s are not good. There are a number of ways of handling 404’s depending on the situation but the worst thing you can do is leave them unhandled – bye bye customers!
Check that all links on your site work – to speed this up you can use a broken link plugin – and check your google console and google analytics for indications of URL’s or links that return a 404.
6. Verify Your Site’s Backups
A backup of your website is only worth having if you can actually restore it when needed. You should verify that you can restore your website to a staging site or on a local development environment on a monthly basis, and get to know the process for doing that restore. You don’t want to find out that this process doesn’t work or that your backups aren’t working when a crisis hits and you have to restore to your live environment. Be prepared.
Yearly Website Maintenance
Ok we’re at the yearly tasks. If you’re feeling daunted that you haven’t been carrying out all these tasks, fear not. You can start today. Alternatively reach out and we can help get you back on an even footing or set you up with a maintenance plan so you never have to think about this list again!
1. Consider Whether You Need New Hosting
Does the host your currently with meet the needs of your site? If your site grows quickly you may need to bump up your hosting tier or move to a provider with better speeds. When considering hosting providers think about speed, reliability and the features they offer. Would it be worth moving to a new provider?
2. Change Your WordPress Password
It goes without saying that your WordPress password should be really strong and secure – imagine a hacker got his hands on your username and password! Change it once a year at a minimum or at any juncture where you have been informed that your details have been part of a breach. Malicious actors like nothing better than a handy password crack so make sure you are using a good password and limiting login attempts on your login page to protect yourself from brute force login attacks and other login threats
3. Audit Your Content
Once a year sit down and audit the content on your website. Look at what performs well and what doesn’t. Delete things that are not benefitting your site or merge them with something else that may create a new decent piece of content. Determine what you need in terms of new content – you need more of what does well! SEO ranking does not like stale content. A good way to stop your content being stale and without creating new content is to look at old blog posts and see if you can update and re-use them!
4. Audit Your Plugins
Have a look at the list of plugins you use and figure out the status of each. Do you use it? How often? Do you have multiple plugins with similar functionality? Can you find a single plugin that does the work of a few plugins that you have installed and use it instead? The more plugins you use the greater the security risk you impose on your site and the more it affects your performance. This is not to scare you out of using plugins, its to make you aware that you should only use plugins essential to the running of your site and get rid of the rest!
And there you have it! The essential tasks needed to maintain a WordPress site. If it seems overwhelming right now, don’t worry. Schedule time in your diary weekly for maintenance then add some extra time once a month and once a year to carry out these tasks. Your website and your clients will thank you for it
If this all makes you a Nervous Nelly we can help you with maintenance plans or once off check ups – just reach out and contact us for a hand!